Nutritional Density: Let me break it on down (Part 3) Forget it, Just Eat Twinkies

Of course you have heard about the Kansas State University human nutrition Professor Haub, who lost 27 pounds eating Twinkies, donuts, candy bars, and other jank.  It was an experiment to test his theory:  “In weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most — not the nutritional value of the food.” So, that’s all folks, let’s just all stuff ourselves with ultra-processed snack cakes and live happily and skinnily ever after, Yay!


I absolutely hate these types of stories because in a society where the average viewer had the attention span of a flatworm, inevitably people will take this and run with it the wrong way.  So put the donuts down, I’m gonna break this on down for you right now.  Please share it with any over-zealous cake eaters in your life.


Every person is not fat for the same reasons.  Professor Haub expressed that pre-Twinkie diet, despite eating whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and occasional treats he wasn’t what he considers healthy, simply because he ate too much.  Too many calories, portion sizes too large.  So he was fat because he just ate too much.  On his Twinkie experiment he limited his caloric intake to less than 1800, instead of his normal intake of 2600 calories per day and lost weight.  However, not everyone is fat simply because of portion size/high caloric intake.  In many cases the culprit is an imbalance of the types of nutrients: fats, protein, and carbohydrates, which is directly related to nutritional density.  Take Judy (not her real name) for example.  Judy is from Georgia and grew up on some good old fashioned soul food, and you know what I’m talking about.  Fried chicken, greens with hamhocks, fried pork chops, and macaroni and cheese that would make you smack your mama.  Guess why she was fat.  She consumed way too much fat.  She did cut calories and portion sizes and would lose a handful of pounds and would very quickly plateau.  She wasn’t fat because she ate too much, she was fat because she ate too much fat.  Don’t get me wrong, she did have to reduce her overall caloric intake to achieve and maintain her healthy weight.  But the process went easier, faster, and lasted longer when she added more high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at the same time as her moderate overall calorie reduction.

On his nutrient deprived junk food diet the professor must have been starving, both literally and figuratively, and here is why.  Nutrient dense foods may have fewer calories but the comparatively higher water and fiber content makes these foods much more filling and satisfying.  For example, many years ago I used to eat Jiffy cornbread.  Jiffy is made with refined flour, is high in sugar and low in fiber.  [ 1/4 cup (1/6 package), 170, 4.5g, 27g, 2g Fiber: 1g]  I could eat the entire thing by myself, yes it is delicious!  But I switched to Hodgson Mill cornbread, which is slightly less sweet, tastes better, and is made with mostly whole grain, with [Serving size 1/4 cup (1/6 package), Calories: 130, fat: 1g, Carbs 27g, Protein: 4g, Fiber: 3g].  But the biggest difference is that I can’t eat another bite more than one or two slices of the Hodgsen Mill cornbread which adds up to about 130-260 calories, much less than the whole pan of Jiffy cornbread at whopping 1020 calories!

According to the highly respected Discovery Health expert, Dr. Mehmet Oz,

Since more than 40% of the calories in the American diet are derived from sugar or refined grains, both of which are nutrient depleted, Americans are severely malnourished.  Refined sugars cause us to be malnourished in direct proportion to how much we consume them.  They are partially to blame for high cancer and heart attack rates we see in America.

Nutritional density is extremely important to not only weight loss, but to overall wellness and disease prevention.  We didn’t even go into the disease discussion.

Families who live in food deserts, usually in very impoverished urban or rural communities, have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so they often rely on the kind of food Haub was eating. I also took offense to Professor Haub’s statement,

These foods are consumed by lots of people,” he said. “It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal. I just think it’s unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits. It may be healthy, but not realistic.

While I do agree that it is unrealistic (and unnecessary) to expect people to eliminate junk food entirely from their diets, I can not throw my hands up and say to hell with the fact that some communities basically get all of their food from convienience stores, and are suffering from obesety and various serious ailments as a result.  We will cover this important issue in a later post.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathleen Avins
    Nov 12, 2010 @ 13:35:55

    Thanks for the reality check! I will take it to the bank. 🙂

    I eat less junk food than I used to, but am certainly not immune to its temptations. This week’s indulgence was a package of spice cake Krimpets with buttercream frosting. (Mmmm…)

    One thing I have learned over the years is that the more sugar I routinely eat, the more I crave. That’s one reason — only one reason! — why I know I would not do well on a Twinkified diet.

    Honestly, I tend to be skeptical of any diet that emphasizes only one kind of food and excludes others. I feel most like a Goddess when my diet is balanced and moderate — and that includes an occasional splurge!


    • Lisa Rasa Devi
      Nov 12, 2010 @ 14:38:27

      Hi Kathleen,

      I hear ya! And there’s nothing wrong with having goodies within reason. I prefer REAL (home made) goodies because although they may contain things like sugars and fats, they aren’t laden with strange ingredients.

      I LOVE the word “TWINKIFIED”!!!!



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